Start with a pinch of Homer, add two cups of scriptural interpretation, slowly pour in some secret ingredients and blend with copious amounts of wild imagination. Chop into 11 parts (more depending on your appetite), cook on low heat, and let simmer for 1500 years. Serve along with Scripture.
This recipe for imitation Bible is known as the Apocrypha. The Roman Catholic Church serves it as main fare in their version of the Scriptures. Before you indulge on this literary concoction, first consider the ingredients. Apocrypha means “things hidden or concealed.” It is from the Greek word apokryphos and it concerns writings that at first were not read publicly. Later, Apocrypha came to be understood as spurious and uncanonical writings.
In common usage, Apocrypha refers to the 11 books (some say 14) made a part of some Bibles by the Roman Catholic Church at the Council of Trent in 1546. This council itself dropped three of the apocryphal books that had been admitted at the Council of Carthage in 397. Those dropped were Prayer of Manasses and 1 and 2 Esdras. All three had appeared for 1,100 years in the Latin Vulgate version of the Bible, completed by Jerome in 405.
The Apocrypha was written between the third and first centuries B.C.E. in the period between the Old and New Testaments. Because of that, some Bibles place the Apocrypha between their Old and New Testament pages.
The books generally recognized as constituting the Apocrypha are: 1, 2 Maccabees; Prayer of Manasses; 1, 2 Esdras; Tobit; Judith; Wisdom; Ecclesiasticus (a.k.a. Sirach); Baruch and Epistle of Jeremy; supplements to Esther and three additions to Daniel include: The Song of the Three Children, Susanna and the Elders, the
Destruction of Bel and the Dragon; and the Letters of Jeremiah.
Jews Rejected Apocrypha
The trend toward including these works as part of the Scriptures was initiated by Augustine in 354 to 430. Although acknowledging some of the historical values of the books, Augustine admitted there was a definite difference between these “outside books” and the Inspired Word.
These spurious works were found in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. This fact alone gives no credence to the argument that the Apocrypha was part of the inspired canon, because no original copies of the Septuagint exist to support such a position. In fact, the Jewish Council of Jamnia in 90 C.E. specifically excluded the Apocrypha from the Hebrew canon of Inspired Scripture.
It was the Jews who were entrusted with preserving the Old Testament Bible. Paul testified to that fact, “What advantage then has the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of Yahweh,” Romans 3:1-2. By oracles Paul meant the actual words of Yahweh, given to Moses and the prophets, Acts 7:38.
No other literary work has been preserved better through the ages than the Bible. The Scribes were meticulous in their dedication to transcribe Scripture exactly. If there were any authenticity to the Apocrypha the Jews would have recognized it. On the contrary. They rejected it.
Neither was any stamp of approval given by Josephus, the first century historian. He said, “For there are not with us myriads of books, discordant and discrepant, but only two and twenty (equivalent to the 39 books of Hebrew Scripture), comprising the history of all time, which are justly accredited.”
Josephus acknowledged that the Hebrew Canon was complete following the books of Nehemiah and Malachi in the 5th century B.C.E. He wrote, “From the time of Artaxerxes up to our own everything has been recorded, but the records have not accounted equally worthy of credit with those written before them, because the exact succession of prophets ceased.” The Bible itself is testimony to the great lengths Yahweh went to preserve the Scriptures.
Jeremiah had been prophesying for 23 years in the 36th chapter of his book. Yahweh commanded him to write his prophecies in a book to be read in the synagogue. When King Jehoiakim heard some of the prophecies he threw the scroll into a fire. With the help of a scribe, Jeremiah rewrote the entire book through Yahweh’s inspiration. If the apocryphal books were to be part of the Hebrew Canon, why is not a single one of them quoted in the New Testament? There are hundreds of quotations of the Old Testament included in the New, yet not one original quotation from one of the apocryphal books is found.
Books with Flaws
The Bible contains no errors. Any mistakes found in modern translations are by translators or editors. Most did not have a grasp of Yahweh’s entire plan of salvation and didn’t understand how the Bible complements itself. The mere historical and literary accuracy of Scripture is testimony to holy inspiration.
The same is not true of the Apocrypha. The best evidence for the bogus nature of the Apocrypha is found in the books themselves. Two of the writers imply that the works are not inspired. In the prologue to Ecclesiasticus (Sirach), we find, ”…my grandfather Jesus, after devoting himself especially to the reading of the law and the prophets and the other books of our fathers, and after acquiring considerable proficiency in them, was himself led to write wisdom…” We get the idea of a cut-and- paste job in the books of Maccabees. From 2 Maccabees 2:25 and 28 we discover this admission, “We have aimed to please those who wish to read, to make it easy for those who are inclined to memorize, and to profit all readers…leaving the responsibility for exact details to the compiler, while devoting our effort to arriving at the outlines of condensation.”
Lacking a prophetic element, the Apocrypha at times contradict the Bible and even themselves. They are full of historical and geological inaccuracies as well as errors in fact and mistakes in time. Each of these mistakes is witness to the fallible men who wrote them.
Their Errors Are Legion
Let’s take a look at a few of the Apocryphal books and discover why they are classified as uninspired.
The Book of Enoch – Jude 1:14: And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, Yahweh cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are wicked among them of all their wicked deeds which they have unrighteously committed, and of all their hard speeches which wicked sinners have spoken against him.”
This is a prophecy by the man Enoch. It is found in the non-canonical 1Enoch 1:9. The words, “Book of Enoch” are nowhere found in Scripture. The Jews did not include this book in their accepted canon, and they were the ones entrusted with that very responsibility by Yahweh Himself, Romans 3:2. The book called Enoch did not appear before the first century BCE. A Restoration Study Bible note in Jude 1:14 from Barnes’ Commentary reads, “There is, indeed, now an apocryphal writing called the Book of Enoch containing a prediction strongly resembling this, but there is no certain proof that it existed so early as the time of Jude, nor if it did, is it absolutely certain that he quoted from it. Both Jude and the author of that book may have quoted a common tradition of their time, for there can be no doubt that the passage referred to was handed down by tradition.”
The Book of Tobit or Tobias is about a pious Jew who is deported to Nineveh. Blinded by bird dung, he sends his son Tobias to collect a debt. During the journey Tobias acquires the gall of a fish that restores his father’s sight.
Estimated to be from the third century B.C.E., Tobit has a serious chronological flaw, among other problems. It says Tobit saw the revolt of the northern tribes (997 B.C.E.) and was on the scene when the tribe of Naphtali was deported to Ninevah (740 B.C.E.). That would mean he lived more than 257 years. But Tobit 14:1-3 gives his age as 102 when he died.
The fact of two authors brings confusion to the Book of Baruch. The first five chapters are made to look as if Baruch wrote them. The sixth chapter is presented as a letter written by Jeremiah. Baruch is said to live in Babylon (1:1, 2) although the Bible says he went to Egypt. In his preface to the Book of Jeremiah, Jerome said, “I have not thought it worthwhile to translate the Book of Baruch.”
In Judith events are said to have occurred during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar who is called the king “who reigned over the Assyrians in the great city of Ninevah,” Judith 1:1, 7. The fact is that Nebuchadnezzar was king of Babylon and never reigned in Ninevah because Ninevah was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar’s father, Nabopolassar. Furthermore, the introduction to the Jerusalem Bible notes that the itinerary of officer Holofernes is a “geographical impossibility.”
A case of mistaken authorship is found in Wisdom. Certain texts in this book present Solomon as its author (9:7, 8, 12). The Jerusalem Bible states that this is a “literary device,” because Wisdom cites passages of Scripture written centuries after Solomon died. Also in Wisdom are advanced the erroneous doctrines of the immortality of the soul (2:23; 3:2, 4) as well as the preexistence of human souls, 8:19, 20 and 9:15. Wisdom of Solomon (11:17) states that G-d “created the world out of formless matter.” Tobit and Judith contain many historical, chronological, and geographical errors.
Perhaps the most valuable of the Old Testament Apocrypha are I and II Maccabees. These two books arebasically historical accounts of the Jewish struggle for independence during the second century B.C.E. They concern the exploits of a priest named Mattathias and his five sons who revolted against Antiochus Epiphanes in his attempt to destroy the Jews and their religion. The works are characteristically written from the human standpoint and did not form part of the inspired Canon.
New Forgeries Flourish
With the advent of the New Testament, new apocryphal works popped up like blossoms in April. There are about 50 spurious “gospels” besides many apocryphal Acts and Epistles. Written mostly beginning in the second century, these works imitated the Evangels, Acts, Letters of Paul and Revelation.
They were partly an attempt to fill in the gaps purposely left open by the inspired New Testament writers. For example, two books purport to detail the events of Yahshua’s youth, information the Bible is purposely silent on. They picture Him as a capricious child performing miracles at whim with supernatural powers.
Of the later apocryphal works, The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible says, “Many of them are trivial, some are highly theatrical, some are disgusting, even loathsome.” These imitation works were excluded from the New Testament writings in the same way the Hebrew Canon was kept pure of the older Apocrypha.
The Apocrypha are the source of some of the dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church. Here is a glimpse of some of the spurious works appearing after the New Testament’s advent:
• Gospel of Nicodemus. A purely imaginary report on the trial of Yahshua to the emperor Tiberius (2nd or 5th century).
• Passing of Mary. Silly miracles, ending with the removal of her “spotless and precious body” to Paradise. Written in the 4th century with the rise of virgin worship.
• Nativity of Mary. Deliberate forgery of the 6th century to further worship of the Virgin Mary. Stories about daily visits of angels to Mary. Immensely popular as papacy grew.
• The Gospel of the Egyptians. Imaginary conversations between Yahshua and Salome (130-150)
• Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew. (note the name!) A 5th century forged translation of Matthew, abounding with the supposed childhood miracles of Yahshua.
• Gospel of Thomas. A 2nd century work on Yahshua’s life from the 5th to the 12th year. Makes him a miracle worker to satisfy his boyish whims.
• Apocalypse of Peter. Purported visions of heaven and hell granted to Peter. Called spurious by Eusebius.
Bible’s Truth Preserved
With all the attempts to imitate the Bible, the holy inspiration of Scripture is borne out time after time. With each archaeological discovery, the Bible and its authenticity stand durable. The Psalmist wrote, “The statutes of Yahweh are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of Yahweh is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of Yahweh is clean, enduring forever: the judgments of Yahweh are true and righteous altogether,” Psalm 19:8 and 9.
Henry Halley, in his Bible Handbook, sums up the Bible’s veracity beautifully: “If you assume that the Bible is just what it appears to be, accept the books as we have them in the Bible as units, study them to know their contents, you will find there a unity of thought indicating that one mind inspired the writing and compilation of the whole series of books. That it bears on its face the stamp of its author. [Yahweh] Himself superintended and directed and dictated the writing of the Bible books, with the human authors so completely under His control that the writing was [Yahweh’s] writing. The Bible is [Yahweh’s] Word, in a sense that no other book in the world is [Yahweh’s] Word.”
Eight Reasons Why the Apocrypha Are Not Inspired Scripture
- Unlike other Scriptures, none of the apocryphal writers claims to be inspired.
- Unlike the Old Testament, the Apocrypha are nowhere quoted in the New.
- The Apocrypha are tainted with errors in fact and time, exposing non-inspiration.
- The Apocrypha contain fabulous statements which not only contradict the “canonical” scriptures but also themselves. For example, in the two Books of Maccabees, Antiochus Epiphanes is made to die three different deaths in three different places.
- The Apocrypha include doctrines in variance with the Bible, such as prayers for the dead, sinless perfection, and immortality of the soul.
- The apocryphal books were never acknowledged as sacred scriptures by the Jews, custodians of the Hebrew Scriptures. In fact, the Jewish people rejected and destroyed the Apocrypha after the overthrow of Jerusalem in 70 CE.
- Not one of the apocryphal books is written in the Hebrew language, which was used by all the inspired writers of the Old Testament. All apocryphal books are in Greek, except one which exists only in Latin.
- The apocryphal books were not permitted among the sacred books during the first four centuries of the common era.